Thursday, September 24, 2009

21st Century Authors: Geoff Cochrane and Elizabeth Knox

So Geoff and Elizabeth Knox talked to us yesterday for a couple of hours. The idea behind the session was I think getting to know what it's like to be an 'author' in the contemporary age.

The startling thing about those two was how they both call themselves 'writers' and seem to have done so since the beginning (before the beginning?) of their careers. Which is nice I think that people do that, own the profession I guess. Kind of ignore all the defunct ideas of the 'author' as in authority and just say I am a writer, I write, that's what I do. For some reason though no one ever wants to say that, people are at pains to point out that they are not writers, either in it temporarily (like who knows what will happen tomorrow) or they kind of rebrand themselves as something artist like an artist or a thief or a note-taker or a bricoleur or something. Which is probably what I would do. Someone asked me the other day when I decided I wanted to be a writer, and I couldn't figure out how to answer. I ended up something lame like I don't think I want to be a writer. Which is untrue I think. I some respects I don't know what a writer is, unless it is someone who writes, cause then I am one I guess, but if it's all this other stuff like authority, being witty, clever, insightful whatever, then I'm not. Most of the time it feels like writing is totally out of my control and I'm not it and it's not me. Like it is a vacuum cleaner that has attached itself to my leg and is dragging me around the house.

One really cool thing Geoff said about how he writes is that he said you just have to 'man the station' - by which I think he meant, get up every day and get out your pen or computer or whatever and write cause if you don't you might not be around when a poem comes. That idea of the poet as a channel I guess, as opposed to the maker. Which I'm not sure I agree with a kind of belief, but I also think the end result is good. You do have to get up every day and write. It is a simple as that.

They also both talked about this thing called 'talent' which they both thoroughly believed in. I'm not so sure I agree with that either. I believe some people are better at some things that others, but I also think that they have learnt that, even if they did so at age two, being read to by their mother or whatever. But I guess there is then the issue of creativity, which no one seems to understand biologically, so maybe that is something you can't learn? Your brain either works that way or it doesn't?


  1. Just waving to say Hi.
    Thanks for this, it confirms again the way to go about writing. When I've been able to find out how writers manage to write, and be successful, they all say Do this. Show up every day. I've just got someone cleaning my house and she is horrified (politely) at what she is finding, and I say, It is because I must write. I can't expect other people to understand.

  2. Hi, right back at you.

    I read an interesting thing about writing as a 'vocation' that is more akin to the religious sense of that word than the commercial sense, which I like. Maybe writing will be easier to explain in those terms to people, but then again, I think I would get strange looks if I told people I wanted to become a priest. Haha!


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